I wish you could hear a song I wrote backing a sweet montage of someone’s ride making the transformation from clunker to pimped. I am not being sarcastic.
Blacktop Mourning are tight-as-hell pop-‘punk’ alterna-rock from Chicago, the kind of stuff designed for mainstream success. They sound like Fall Out Boy without the R&B attempts, and accordingly MTV loves them. Yes, they have been played on “Pimp My Ride” as well as about a dozen other examples of MTV’s fine programming. They’ve also got the love of Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz: He discovered them on MySpace and now they’re the first release for his new label. He also sings backup vocals on a few tracks for them.
My brain tells me to hate this, but my toe tappin’ says otherwise. They’ve got all the right elements to break out huge, with bouncy uptempo beats and perfectly crafted chorus melodies like in “Halfway to Midnight”; pseudo-hardcore Victory records-style riffs like in “My Only Heart”; and throwin’ an occasional curveball, like in “Don’t Defend” with its bitchin’ tech-acoustic first verse. In the bridge of “Your First Crime,” the guitar octaves over a half-time beat make me think these dudes come from the school of the Get Up Kids, but songwriter and guitar prodigy Max Steger is only 18 or 19, so he may be all like “the get up what?” But he sure does shred a mean cock-rock solo on the drawn-out, appropriately-named closer “As Time Crawls By.” Kid’s good. Bassist and singer Joe Levand really sounds like Patrick Stump to me; take the vocals out and perhaps they wouldn’t sound so close to Fall Out Boy.
As is the nature of bands MTV loves, they didn’t create a start-to-finish solid work. “Hardly Recognize” is the token ballad and does little for me, and the ‘haunting’ piano album intro “6AM” is also a bit cliché and a throwaway. Really, the last few tracks of the album don’t leave much to remember. But hell, I keep replaying “These Times Call” cuz that guitar lead in the jittery bounce of the intro is so freakin’ catchy. Seriously. Make that the soundtrack to my car pimp-age.
Blacktop Mourning are breaking no molds, opting to instead try and fit as many molds as possible in the vein of the current mall-emo trends, yet this album is too well-crafted for me to dismiss. While it’s not something I personally would pay money for, I currently am quite enjoying it. My head won’t let me give it an eight but my air guitar won’t let me give it as low as a six. So there you go.